(Originally posted at Sue Lebecks’s blog on www.innovatingsmart.org, March 15, 2011)
Yeah, this use of the acronym “SMART” is our own invention. You won’t yet find it in the mainstream (though we’d love to change that over time.) We came up with it to try to articulate specifically what we were learning about sustainable systems, and what it really meant to be “sustainable”.
The word “sustainable” itself is not terribly inspiring. Intuitively, it means something on the order of “continuing to exist”. In recent years this has become a central and often elusive goal for many living systems, social contracts, and businesses (but that is a blog post for another day). Still — “sustainable” is hardly a juicy word to the average innovator (is there such a thing as an average innovator? also a blog post for another day).
So why “SMART”? We began with the word “SMART” because increasingly the ways we manage infrastructures, treat social systems and conduct business have begun to appear to the forward-thinking observer to be (now don’t hate me) — STUPID. Yes — stupid. In fact, the long-term effects of the status quo were dramatized in the popularly and critically acclaimed and innovatively distributed 2009 British film The Age of Stupid. Set in 2055, it tells the story of what happens when the world refuses to change its systems and infrastructures, revealing the “reasons” for this lack of action as, well, lame and stupid.
“Business-as-usual cannot get us to sustainability or secure economic and social prosperity. These can be achieved only through radical change, starting now.”
Translation: the way we have been doing business, though once thought to be smart, is no longer so. If we continue in the same way going forward — we are stupid. This, however para-phrased, comes directly from the horse’s mouth. A very SMART beginning.
designed with sensitivity to the context of the specific systems and environs involved; also, optimizing the interplay between systems.
managed thoughtfully for best result; also, using sensors/data/analysis/control to manage systems operationally in dynamic circumstances.
designed to work well in a changing world, in a manner that works with the environment and not against it.
Thank you for taking a leadership role in transforming Our World, Sue! Ever since I saw the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD)’s Vision 2050 report, which you reference in this post, I’ve felt a sense of urgency to help businesses solve the problems of Planet Earth – – – profitably and sustainably. I was delighted to hear the top 200 companies of Our World saying “There is no profit in a world in decay.” I’m glad there is a rising tide of interest in taking responsibility for making more than a profit – – – making a positive difference!
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